OverviewOfNanoelectronicDevices

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Overview of Nanoelectronic Devices DAVID GOLDHABER-GORDON, MICHAEL S. MONTEMERLO, J. CHRISTOPHER LOVE, GREGORY J. OPITECK, AND JAMES C. ELLENBOGEN This paper provides an overview of research developments toward nanometer-scale electronic switching devices for use in building ultra-densely integrated electronic computers. Specif- ically, two classes of alternatives to the field-effect transistor are considered: 1) quantum-effect and single-electron solid-state devices and 2) molecular electronic devices. A taxonomy of devices in each class is provided, operational principles are described and compared for the various types of devices, and the literature about each is surveyed. This information is presented in nonmathematical terms intended for a general, technically interested readership. Keywords— Molecular electronics, nanoelectronics, quantum dots, quantum-effect devices, resonant tunneling, single-electron transistors. I. I NTRODUCTION For the past 40 years, electronic computers have grown more powerful as their basic subunit, the transistor, has shrunk [1]. However, the laws of quantum mechanics and the limitations of fabrication techniques may soon prevent further reduction in the size of today’s conventional field- effect transistors (FET’s). Many investigators in the field of next-generation electronics project that during the next 10 to 15 years, as the smallest features on mass-produced transistors shrink from their present lengths of 250 nm to 100 nm and below, the devices will become more difficult and costly to fabricate. In addition, they may no longer function effectively in ultra-densely integrated electronic circuits [2]–[11]. (Note: 1 nm is 1 billionth of a meter, approximately 10 atomic diameters.) In order to continue the miniaturization of circuit el- ements down to the nanometer scale, perhaps even to the molecular scale, researchers are investigating several alternatives to the transistor for ultra-dense circuitry. These new nanometer-scale electronic (nanoelectronic) devices perform as both switches and amplifiers, just like today’s transistors. However, unlike today’s FET’s, which operate based on the movement of masses of electrons in bulk mat- ter, the new devices take advantage of quantum mechanical phenomena that emerge on the nanometer scale, including the discreteness of electrons. Manuscript received August 9, 1996; revised February 25, 1997. This work was supported by a grant from The MITRE Corporation. The authors are with The MITRE Corporation, McLean, VA 22102 USA (e-mail: [email protected]). Publisher Item Identifier S 0018-9219(97)03635-9. What will such alternative next-generation nanodevices look like? Upon what operating principles will they function? How will they resemble present-day transis- tors, and how will they differ? This paper addresses these questions by surveying the literature about novel nanoelectronic devices that could replace the transistor in tomorrow’s smaller, denser, and faster digital computers.
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